CHARLESTON, S.C. – The jury in the murder trial of a former South Carolina police officer charged with gunning down a black motorist will continue deliberating next week, despite at one point Friday appearing deadlocked by a juror who told the judge he could not "with good conscience approve a guilty verdict."
The panel of one black and 11 white jurors has now deliberated for more than 16 hours over three days on whether to convict former North Charleston police Officer Michael Slager in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. They will return to the jury room Monday.
Twice on Friday the jurors told Judge Clifton Newman they had reached a stalemate. One juror sent a letter directly to the judge saying he could not "with good conscience approve a guilty verdict." The juror added he was not about to change his mind.
But then in the courtroom, the jury foreman told the judge that he thought jurors could reach a unanimous verdict and deliberations continued. Newman did not say whether the jurors were leaning toward a conviction on murder or on voluntary manslaughter.
Slager pulled over Scott's 1990 Mercedes for a broken taillight on April 4, 2015. Scott was shot five times in the back as he fled the traffic stop. A passer-by captured the shooting on cellphone video that stunned the nation.
Slager was fired from the department and charged with murder after the video surfaced.
Jurors are considering the charge of murder, which in Slager's case could carry a sentence of from 30 years to life in prison, and a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of two to five years.
The city of North Charleston reached a $6.5 million civil settlement with Scott's family last year. Following the shooting, the city also that the U.S. Justice Department to review its police department policies with an eye toward how the department can improve its relationship with residents.
Slager also faces trial next year in federal court on charges of depriving Scott of his civil rights.